Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s high-profile $19 billion purchase of cross-platform messaging service WhatsApp is facing a big hurdle. On March 6, privacy advocates like the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. They urged the regulators to halt the Facebook-WhatsApp deal because the acquisition would affect the privacy of WhatsApp users.
Examine Facebook deal with far greater scrutiny than the Google-Nest deal
In response, WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) continue to reiterate that the messaging service will continue to operate independently and user privacy won’t be affected. On March 17, Koum tried to reassure users in a blog post that WhatsApp won’t require them to provide additional information.
Responding to Koum’s blog post, privacy groups EPIC and CDD filed an updated complaint with the FTC on Friday. The update contains media reports about the deal, and reaction from commenters. Privacy advocates urged the FTC to examine the Facebook-WhatsApp deal with far more scrutiny than the regulators devoted to Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s acquisition of Nest Labs.
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) draws legal complaints on a regular basis for violating user privacy. The social networking giant’s controversial Beacon advertising program would post users’ activities to third-party websites, and has received widespread criticism from thousands of users. There are sponsored stories that post your photos and names alongside ads. And then there is the unsolicited use of facial recognition. The list continues as Facebook finds more ways to use the user data it has collected.
Facebook can ask for forgiveness, not permission
EPIC and CDD argue that Mark Zuckerberg is more likely to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. They believe that he would, sooner or later, come up with new ways to use the WhatsApp user data so that he can monetize the $19 billion purchase. Koum promised that “nothing” is going to change. But he is focused more on the consumer end, such as the user experience rather than how WhatsApp does business. Koum promises that the service will remain ad-free and charge only a small fee. But his blog doesn’t specifically mention data collection or transmission.
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) shares inched up 0.06% to $67.28 in pre-market trading Monday.